With the show being only an hour long tonight, Cat Deeley wasted no time in getting things underway--with, incidentally, Paula Abdul in the audience, smiling her nice-judge smile and seal-clapping sweetly for every routine.
Yay, I love it when my favorite shows collide! Synergy rules!
So first up were newly coupled-off Mark and Courtney--a pairing that could have been a disadvantage for both dancers, since going into tonight's episode they seemed like the boy and girl most likely to get cut this week. (Many viewers were surprised that Mark stayed over Will last week, and it was hard to imagine Courtney, fantastic as she is, outlasting either Chelsie or Katee.) So I assumed that the show's two (relatively) weakest links linked together would produce disappointing results. But Mark and Courtney's smoothly executed Viennese waltz was actually surprisingly stunning. It was, in Nigel Lythgoe's words, "romantic," which was additionally surprising considering how bratty and brother-sisterly they'd behaved during their goofball rehearsal. But then again, Mark's always been good at getting into character. He ought to try acting if this dancing thing doesn't pan out for him.
Anyway, it was a lovely and elegant routine, and it was performed to David Cook's "Time Of My Life," too--more AmIdol overlap! So Mark and Courtney were dancing to the coronation song of an Idol champ..but did they still stand a chance of becoming SYTYCD champs? Well, possibly maybe. But possibly not. Lovely and elegant waltzes don't always draw big votes with younger viewers, sadly. Mark and Courtney were going to have to come back with something edgier and sexier for their second dance. And oooh boy, did they ever! But I'm getting ahead of myself...more on that later...
Next, ballroom babe Chelsie did her solo, swiveling her lightning-quick hips and working the fringe on her costume with Anya-esque tenacity. She hoofed it to the Pussycat Dolls' "When I Grow Up" and looked mighty grown-up indeed--as sexy as any long-limbed member of PCD, but waaaay classier. (Regular viewers may remember the Dolls' trashy SYTYCD performance a few weeks ago, which momentarily made me think this show had been retitled So You Think You Can Poledance.)
Twitch's solo, which followed, was possibly the most fun single-person routine of the night, incorporating so many props he could have been mistaken for a member of America's Best Dance Crew 2's Fanny Pak. He rocked a Flavor Flav-like gold grill and lensless geek glasses (which Cat lately swiped from him and tried on for size, with great comic results). But Twitch's props never detracted from his awesome moves. So I give Twitch props! (Heh heh...sorry, couldn't resist the pun.)
For the next couple routine, Katee was re-teamed with her old partner, Josh. I could start spouting conspiracy theories galore here, because their reunion definitely gave them at a massive edge. They'd already danced together for weeks, getting to know each other and develop the trust needed to fearlessly fling themselves into the giant leaps their Tice Diorio-choreographed contemporary routine demanded tonight. When Katee did that amazing mid-air split and Josh caught her by the thighs, that was the sort of risky stunt only two well-connected, tightknit dancers could pull off. Of course, there were other advantages here. Katee and Josh are two of the strongest dancers on the show, so pairing them up was bound to be magical no matter what the circumstances. Plus, Josh is so athletic and strong (in the words of Courtney, he's a MAAAAN), he could effortlessly handle all of Tice's tricky lifts, superhumanly hoisting sweet petite Katee into the air like she was just a flimsy piece of one-ply tissue paper.
By the end of this routine, one of the night's highest high points, the judges were unsurprisingly giving Katee and Josh a standing ovation, and Mary Murphy was shattering all the light fixtures in the studio with her signature scream. Katee and Josh didn't ever need to bother to dance their second routine or do their solos, really, because it was pretty obvious that unless they pulled a Jessica and cracked a couple ribs, these two were practically guaranteed spots in the finals.
Third couple Chelsie and Twitch, partnering for the first time, danced a mambo next, during which Chelsie did the unimaginable: She upstaged Twitch! I never thought I'd see the day when a larger-than-life character like b-boy superhero Twitch would fade into the background...but with that red-hot red dress Chelsie was wearing (what little there was of it, that is), it was an easy feat for her. I barely even remember Twitch being onstage, to be honest. It's a good thing he'd done that memorable solo earlier in the night.
Katee and Josh each soloed next, both solid routines that further cemented their placement in the finals. But then...Mark and Courtney returned for their second dance.
Yowsa! Choreographed by mohawked visionary Sonya Tayeh, Mark and Courtney's French burlesque-inspired contemporary dance was just the routine they needed to keep them in the game. Full of not-ready-for-prime-time S&M overtones (note Courtney's black lace corset and single tattered fishnet stocking, a "Justify My Love"-esque outfit that in and of itself would inspire male voters to pick up the phone and dial Courtney's number), it was down 'n' dirty 'n' devious. All those good D-words. And unlike Twitch with Chelsie, Mark managed to NOT be upstaged by his sexily attired partner. This "raw" and "dark" routine was exactly the type of dance that played to Mark's quirky strengths--so he stood out in his own way, with his Sonya-like rooster hair, smoldering Rudy Valentino stare, and laser-sharp angular moves. This dance was my fave routine of the night, and was both Courtney and Mark's sexy salvation. If either of these underdogs squeak through to the finale, it will be because of this dance--and because of Sonya Tayeh, whose feet Courtney and Mark should be gratefully smooching right about now.
It-couple Katee and Josh followed with an equally fierce, matador-themed paso doble. Just as that S&M contemporary routine showcased Mark's unique strengths, this dance was ideally suited to the brutishly strong Josh. He was appropriately bullish--and once again wisely shirtless, flexing his almost steroidal pectorals--all testosterone and sweat and gritted teeth. (The way he dragged Katee across the stage floor at the dance's climax was positively caveman-like.) Katee was in turn Josh's ideal counterpart, pure fluid grace yet equally strong in her own feminine way.
More eardrum-shredding Mary Murphy screaming ensued, of course.
Courtney soloed next, and thought she danced well, as always, I admit I was still distracted by thoughts of her earlier burlesque number with Mark. That daring dance made me see this sweet girl-next-door in a whole new light. Really now, when did this fresh-faced cutie become such a bombshell? I'll never look at her the same way after seeing her in slashed fishnets and a Fredericks's Of Hollywood pinup-girl merrywidow.
Mark then soloed to a rockin' Robyn jam, and further redeemed himself. His solo was possibly the most unique of the night, right up there with Twitch's memorable moment. And Mark took a cue from Josh and the recently departed Will, and he went shirtless! Of course, when he ripped off his breakway T-shirt, he revealed a much scrawnier torso than the ones on those two aforementioned beefcake dancers. But it was still kind of hawt. Skinny guys can be sexy too--especially when they can move like Mark.
For the final dance of the night, Twitch and Chelsea were "randomly" assigned hip-hop. More conspiracy theories abound here--how many times has Twitch had the good luck to dance in his specialty genre, huh? But then again, this Tabitha & Napoleon-choreographed routine was no typical hip-hop number. Set to an instrumental string-quartet remake of Janet Jackson's "Control" and depicting two tuxedo-jacketed classical conductors locked in some sort of epic battle for control of an all-powerful baton, it was a truly unique concept. And it played to one of Twitch's major strengths, which is humor. Twitch is a maestro of comedic routines (note his proptastic solo earlier in the night), so this was a perfect dance with which to end his evening. While his first partner dance, the mambo, may have mainly been a showcase for Chelsie, this second routine was all about Twitch.
Okaaaay. Now it's prediction time. And it ain't gonna be easy. I think Katee and Josh are shoo-ins, but what about the other two? I think Chelsie will just barely edge out Courtney, but as for the two remaining guys (both of whom have been in the bottom three before), it will be especially close. Twitch is amazing, but some of his b-boy voter support has probably been siphoned off by Josh, and he almost went home last week. Mark is also awesome, and he even managed to overthrow Will last week, so he shouldn't be counted out just yet. Also, keep in mind that Mark is from Hawaii, which is in a whole other time zone--which means fewer clogged phone lines. So the Hawaii vote just may give Mark the edge (it helped Jasmine Trias get all the way to third place on American Idol, you know), as might that stunning Sonya dance.
So I'm going to go out on a slight limb here, and guesstimate that the final four will be Katee, Chelsie, Josh, and Mark. Check back tomorrow to see if I'm right!
NOTE TO MY REGULAR READERS: When tomorrow night's elimination episode airs, I will actually be on a plane to Chicago, on my way to cover Lollapalooza. (My Lolla blogs will be posted in Yahoo! Music's Maximum Performance section over the weekend, for those of you who are interested.) But rest assured that as soon as I'm back on solid ground and able to get a wireless signal, I'll be looking up the SYTYCD results and writing about my reaction. So stay tuned...